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MSU Potluck: Plenty of Options with Faygo

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State
Malik just wants a hug, Christian, where are you going?
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

There probably isn’t a stronger lineup of soda, top to bottom, than that offered by Faygo, founded and headquartered in Detroit. Its calling cards, Rock N Rye and Red Pop, don’t really have direct equivalents from the other major drink companies, and where it does go toe-to-toe with competitors, its take on classics such as Root Beer and Moon Mist (Faygo’s version of Mountain Dew) stack up favorably as well.

Faygo’s true strength, however, lies in the depth of its lineup, as it also features over a dozen fruit-flavored offerings that can be enjoyed on their own merits or in cocktails. Always good to have a reliable fallback option if the shelves are cleared of your favorite.

The Spartan defense was generally strong in 2015 and returns a lot of experience. The back seven should benefit from the large number of players forced into action by injury last year; the linebacking crew has too many standouts to play them all, revolving around Riley Bullough (and before you get excited about him being a senior and about to leave, remember he isn’t the last Bullough), and even the vulnerable secondary should benefit from the experience gained last year. But the line is going to need a blend of career backups, transfers, and freshmen to coalesce around planet-eater Malik McDowell if this defense is going to return to its galactically significant quality.

Is your team counting on unknown quantities at critical spots (other than QB, that’s too easy guys), and if so, how are you feeling about it? This former generic 3* is definitely going to be better than the multiyear starter he replaces, right? Who’s the one guy you’re really counting on big things from?

Candystripes: I don’t know, does the defense count as a critical spot? Because I feel like that’s an unknown quantity for us every year.

As for who I’m counting on for big things, I’m gonna go with the one quantity on the defense that’s at least somewhat known: Tegray Scales. The junior from Cincy is probably the key returning starter for an Indiana defense that needs all the experience it can get.

Creighton: The largest unknown for the Hawkeyes is probably the receiving corps. Matt VandeBerg and Riley McCarron got a fair amount of playing time last year, but Iowa loses a lot of production from last year’s starters Jacob Hillyer and Tevaun Smith. VandeBerg and McCarron will have to step up in a big way, but Iowa is also counting on the promising, yet untested, players behind them. Jerminic Smith and Jay Scheel will be counted on a lot this year. Jay Scheel is a former QB and one of those rare athletes that is just stupefyingly good at everything he does, and I think he has the potential to be the next big thing in Iowa City (Incidentally, “former qb” is Kirk Ferentz’s favorite combination of words after “nice punt”). With Jonathan Parker’s injury last week, I also expect the awesomely named Adrian Falconer will see the field quite a bit.

Brian: Even with Michigan starting an untested quarterback this fall, you could make the argument that departing senior center Graham Glasgow is still Michigan’s biggest loss. The walk-on-turned-Detroit Lion was not only Michigan’s best lineman last year, but he played an integral position. The plan appears to be moving Mason Cole to center, and while center may be closer to Cole's true position than was tackle, there's no guarantee that the Wolverines won't feel Glasgow's loss. I referenced earlier that it wasn't too long ago that Michigan was in a similar situation and returned two future NFL tackles but lost Rimington Trophy winning center David Molk and the results weren't pretty. Granted, that team didn't have Cole, but for the Wolverines to have the season they're anticipating they'll need solid offensive line play, and for that to happen, they'll need Cole to perform well in his new role.

Al NamiasIV: Along with the receivers, I would also add kicker and punter, which are big deals at Iowa where #punting is winning. Recently, Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette tweeted out the following:

Over 7.5 percent of the players in camp will be specialists. That is nuts. It’s also nuts that they couldn’t whittle it down to two punters and two kickers during spring practices, but whatever. How do I feel about it? I’m hoping no games come down to a field goal and the offense scores on every drive so there is no need for a punter.

But even great coaching can’t fix stupid...cue Temple’s 2-man rush/sack gif.

I’m not wildly optimistic about this group. I think the secret to successfully avoiding an aneurysm (or becoming as bitter as Bschim) is to set low expectations.

MNW: We’re counting on one kinda-reliable returning wide receiver, a converted WR-to-RB-to-WR, and a converted DB to be our receiving corps. So yeah. There’s that.

Looking at the almost totally-rebuilt defensive line and shaky secondary, I’m curious to see how the Spartans hold up, especially in early tests like Notre Dame and Wisconsin back-to-back. That could be a couple losses and in two very different ways—big plays against Notre Dame, ground’n’pound against the Badgers. Note that I’m not saying that will happen, but we’ll learn a lot about the Spartans by the end of September.

Of course, now that I’ve said that, Dantonio will break out the 2-5-4 defense in which all the linebackers just run around and eventually rack up 6 sacks a game. He will be hailed as a genius. I will put my head through a wall.

Also wait. WAIT. MSU has Dylan Chmura on the roster? Like, son of hot tub enthusiast Mark? Please let that be true, because I’m not doing any more research than that.

Stew: Al covered the specialist situation quite well. It’s not looking good right now. So I’m going to go with the interior OL. Replacing Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh in the interior is not going to be easy, at all. Iowa had the most success in the running game last year running behind those two. Now, the guys replacing them do have starting experience because due to injuries last year, but they are no guarantee. Sean Welsh was a solid guard last year, but hasn’t played center before. James Daniels played a lot as a true freshman last year, and that’s very rare for Iowa, but still, he’s quite young. And Boone Myers is a former walk-on who played tackle last year, and was pretty poor in pass protection at that. And while I implicitly trust Ferentz with the OL, these are pretty big questions.

Aaron Yorke: Moon Mist! That sounds like something I would get out of the vending machine on the top floor of the Celadon City department store. Gotta stock up for that big gym battle!

Anyway, Penn State’s biggest question marks this year are on the defensive line, where they will be missing Carl Nassib, Austin Johnson, and Anthony Zettel. Since all three of those guys were awesome in 2015 and just got drafted into the NFL, the Lions will be playing a lot of new faces on the front four in 2016. I don’t feel terrible about it yet because the lone returning starter is Garrett Sickels and he has a chance to do great things. There’s also a chance that a backup player from last season like Torrence Brown or Evan Schwan takes a giant leap forward like Nassib did last year. They probably won’t be quite as dominant as Nassib, but this unit doesn’t need to be amazing for Penn State to have a solid defense. If all else fails, top recruit Shane Simmons could see some playing time in pass rush situations.

WSR: The entirety of Minnesota’s season depends on the ability of Garrison Wright, Vincent Calhoun, and Donnell Greene being able to quickly adapt to a new scheme and a new coach and join Tyler Moore and Jonah Pirsig in mauling people to make room for Shannon Brooks to run wild and keep people off Mitch Leidner. No pressure for three JUCOs, right?